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Does the power meter really run BACKWARDS with solar panels?

16 Feb 2017

Posted in Commercial, General, Residential by Alba Energy

Many people want to know if and how the power meter will run backwards after a solar power system is installed, so the following article was written to explain the answer to this commonly asked question. The short answer is yes, your power meter can spin backwards when you go solar. But, as you will see below, the true answer depends on your local power utility or retail electricity provider and their specific solar buyback agreement.

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Here’s how your power meter can run backwards with solar panels


Scenario 1: True Net Metering

Under this scenario your solar panels are producing energy during the day. Electricity that is needed immediately goes into the home where it gets used as power. Additional or excess solar energy that is produced but not needed within the home runs the reverse route through your electricity meter and is recorded at a credit from your local utility provider.

You build up credits or “spin the meter backwards” during the day as you are away from the home and your solar panels are producing lots of excess energy. In the evening and after the sun goes down your solar panels are no longer producing, so you use those credits that were generated earlier.

At the end of each billing period your local utility provider pays you for net excess generation at the specific rate outlined in their buyback agreement. Payments are given to you via a credit on your monthly bill for that period, and excess credits can be carried forward to future bills.

For example, this type of Net Metering is available to customers of CPS Energy in and around the metro San Antonio area.


Plus, to encourage their customers to go solar, the CPS Energy Solar Rebate Program offers a one-time cash rebate which can be used toward the cost of a new solar power system.

Scenario 2: VoS with Dual Metering

Another common solar buyback scenario involves two separate electricity meters – A standard meter for measuring the power you consume from the grid, plus a second meter for measuring the solar power your panels generate and send into the grid.

Instead of being issued a credit for the net difference at the end of the month (Scenario 1), 100% of the energy produced by your solar panels goes back into the grid, and your local utility provider pays you for this at a guaranteed rate each month.

If that credit is larger than your bill in a given month, you essentially “spun the meter backwards.”

This is the case in and around metro Austin where Austin Energy pays a “Value of Solar” (VoS) credit on the bill each month for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar energy produced by the system. As of February 2017, the VoS credit is worth 10.6 cents per kWh.

You are billed for the total energy use of your home under the residential tiered rate structure, and then that bill is reduced by the VoS credit. If this credit is bigger than your electric bill in a given month, the remaining credit rolls over to the next month as long as the account remains open.

Like CPS Energy, there is also an available solar rebate from Austin Energy to encourage homeowners to install solar power systems and put clean energy into their grid.

Scenario 3: Solar Buyback From Retail Electricity Provider

Much of the state of Texas falls under deregulated energy territories, which means you the consumer have the ability to choose from which Retail Electricity Provider (REP) you purchase your energy.

When it comes to solar, a handful of REPs have implemented programs that allow you to spin your meter backwards from excess solar energy production.

For example, with Green Mountain’s Renewable Rewards Buy-Back Program, the 2 year term at $0.116 per kWh will give you the best buy-back value for your excess solar production.

You can visit Power To Choose to learn more about the renewable energy buyback programs available in your zipcode, or give Alba Energy a call at (800) 238-3112 and speak with our knowledgeable solar staff.

Scenario 4: Solar Buyback At Avoided Cost

Other power providers may require you to instantly consume any solar electricity produced by solar panels. In the event of over-production, your company is not required to make a purchase. However, many REPs will pay you a rate based on their ‘avoided cost’ which is a lower rate than those mentioned above.

For example, the Excess Generation Sell Back Program from Amigo Energy pays $0.04 per kWh for electricity returned to the grid. It’s not the best rate, but it’s better than nothing!

Ready to get started with solar?

Alba Energy is proud to be one of the premier solar installers in Texas, with offices across the state. Alba Energy has completed hundreds of solar panel installations on both homes and businesses, helping our customers save thousands of dollars on electricity costs. Thanks to our innovative solar financing, there’s a good chance you can install solar panels and pay less for the system than you currently pay for electricity. Your monthly energy savings pays for the system!

Contact your local office to schedule a FREE solar consultation, and a representative will walk you through the available options in your zipcode and help you understand the plan that makes the best financial sense!

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